Game Preview: Dallas Stars @ Tampa Bay Lightning
Every shift- Every moment- The Dallas Stars try to extend a season that appears already decided.
The Dallas Stars have won two in a row for the first time since;... well, whenever that was. They find themselves, therefore, on the very fringe of playoff relativity, and with a harsh challenge ahead in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Stars survived Thursday night: Florida looked, at first glance, content to wallow in self pity with so many injuries, sicknesses, maladies, and whatnot, but the Stars soon found themselves under-siege and in need of a late third-period goal to send the game to overtime. Their rambunctiousness renewed, the Stars got hero performances from unlikely bodies.... All while their usual hero tarried off the court.
Tyler Seguin is tantalizingly close to returning only three weeks after a supposed 4-6 week estimate on absence. Perhaps he's a pretty thorough healer.
"He looked good," Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. "The plan is to progress and hopefully we're looking at Tuesday." (for a potential return)
A win tonight would go a long way toward making Tuesday, with Seguin back in the lineup, really meaning something- As stacked as the odds are. The Stars put a couple of wins together- But so did the three teams immediately in front of them.
Jhonas Enroth left the ice first on Friday according to Mike Heika, and that typically equates with starting the next game. After what happened in South Florida it would be easy enough to see- But Tampa is no hurt, sick, slow Florida Panther team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, at 25-6-1, are the league's second-best home team this season behind Nashville. 25-6-1.
They've scored the second highest number of home goals in the NHL at 109 as of this writing. The Dallas Stars? Three behind them at 106 goals at home. A three goal difference- Yet one team is about the best at home and the other is the worst?
You, Stars fan, have watched Dallas surrender 109 goals at the American Airlines Center- A league high for any team at home this season. The Lightning's crowd have seen them give up...65. That's it- Meaning that they often times kill you there. They have 10 wins at home featuring a three-goal differential or greater.
Special teams have been a big part of that. Sure, they have the 8th best power play n the league, but it's their penalty kill that's the rock star. They kill at a gaudy 89.6% rate, giving up only ten power play goals at home in 32 games, and never more than one in any single outing.
Tampa ranks 18th in shots per game taken and 3rd in shots against at just 27.5. They like to keep it a pretty low-event game, which helps them on the defensive end but impressively does not limit their high-powered offense's ability to score.
The way forward when your opponent doesn't get scored on at home much, doesn't allow many shots and has the best penalty killing? Probably goaltending- But I digress.
I cannot speak for everyone, but I for one find it comforting that Brenden Morrow will be seeing some significant playoff action, possibly as a #1 seed in the East.
From Stars PR, who get a gold star for putting a Lion King reference in their notes...
I JUST CAN'T WAIT TO BE KLING
Defenseman John Klingberg notched his 25th assist of the season Thursday night against the Florida Panthers. Klingberg now has points in his last three games (0-3=3) and in his last nine games has six points (0-6=6). The Gothenburg, Sweden native currently ranks fourth on the Stars and shares fifth amongst all League rookies with 35 points (10-25=35) this season. Klingberg also is fourth among all Dallas skaters and is tied for third among all first-year players with 25 helpers. The 22-year-old currently ranks first among rookie defensemen in scoring and assists along with second in goals.